About Staph Infections
Staph infections are caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, which many healthy people carry on their skin and in their noses without getting sick.
But when skin is punctured or broken, staph bacteria can enter the wound and cause infections, which can lead to other health problems.
You can help prevent staph infections in your family by encouraging regular hand washing and daily bathing, and by keeping areas that have been cut clean or covered.
How Staph Infections Spread
Staph bacteria can spread through contaminated surfaces and from person to person. Kids can carry staph bacteria from one area of their body to another — or pass it to other people — via dirty hands or fingernails. So good hand washing is vital to preventing staph infections.
It's also important to encourage kids to keep their skin clean with a daily bath or shower. If your child has a skin condition such as eczema that makes frequent bathing difficult, ask your doctor for advice.
Keep areas of skin that have been injured — such as cuts, scrapes, and rashes caused by allergic reactions or poison ivy — clean and covered, and follow any directions given by your doctor.
Complications of Staph Infections
Folliculitis and Boils
Folliculitis is an infection of hair follicles, tiny pockets under the skin where hair shafts (strands) grow. In folliculitis, tiny white-headed pimples appear at the base of hair shafts, sometimes with a small red area around each pimple. This infection often occurs in areas where there's been friction or irritation, such as with shaving.
Folliculitis often clears up on its own with good skin hygiene. Sometimes, it can progress to become a furuncle, or a boil. With a boil, the staph infection spreads deeper and wider, often affecting the skin's subcutaneous tissue (deeper tissue under the skin) and the oil-producing glands, which are called sebaceous glands.
In the first stage, which parents and kids often miss, the area of skin either begins to itch or becomes mildly painful. Next, the skin turns red and begins to swell over the infected area. Finally, the skin above the infection becomes very tender and a whitish "head" may appear. The head may break, and the boil may begin to drain pus, blood, or an amber-colored liquid. Boils can occur anywhere on the skin, especially under the arms or on the groin or buttocks in kids.
To help relieve pain from a boil, try warm-water soaks, a heating pad, or a hot-water bottle applied to the skin for about 20 minutes, three or four times a day. Make sure that the washcloths used for the soaks are washed after each use. Boils are occasionally treated with oral antibiotics and in some cases need to be surgically drained.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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